April 6, 2022 •
Elections National: “How Trump Allies Are Pushing to Hand-Count Ballots Around the U.S.” by Rosalind Helderman, Amy Gardner, and Emma Brown (Washington Post) for MSN New Hampshire: “Trump Aide Seeking NH House Seat Voted in 2 States in 2016” by […]
National: “How Trump Allies Are Pushing to Hand-Count Ballots Around the U.S.” by Rosalind Helderman, Amy Gardner, and Emma Brown (Washington Post) for MSN
New Hampshire: “Trump Aide Seeking NH House Seat Voted in 2 States in 2016” by Brian Slodysko and Holly Ramer (Associated Press) for MSN
National: “Inside the Consulting Firm Run by Ginni Thomas, Wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas” by Brian Schwartz (CNBC) for MSN
Florida: “Inside the Scott Maddox Messages: A Tallahassee Democrat investigation into back-door dealings” by Jeff Burlew, Jeffrey Schweers, and Karl Etters (Tallahassee Democrat) for Yahoo News
Georgia: “State Worker Accused of Using Fake Belly to Pretend She’s Pregnant Skirts Prison in GA” by Hayley Fowler (Charlotte Observer) for MSN
Mississippi: “Phil Bryant Had His Sights on a Payout as Welfare Funds Flowed to Brett Favre” by Anna Wolfe (Mississippi Today) for MSN
New Jersey: “A Bribe Is a Bribe, Court Says, Ruling That a Mayoral Candidate Is Subject to N.J. Corruption Laws” by Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) for Newark Star Ledger
National: “GAO: Most lobbyists follow disclosure rules, but some leave out details” by Kate Ackley (Roll Call) for MSN
April 5, 2022 •
Campaign Finance National: “Former GOP Lawmaker Pardoned by Trump Hit with Campaign Finance Fines” by Zoë Richards for NBC News Michigan: “Michigan AG Hopeful Tom Leonard’s Fundraising Draws Fairness Concerns” by Yue Stella Yu for Bridge Michigan Elections Texas: “Texas […]
National: “Former GOP Lawmaker Pardoned by Trump Hit with Campaign Finance Fines” by Zoë Richards for NBC News
Michigan: “Michigan AG Hopeful Tom Leonard’s Fundraising Draws Fairness Concerns” by Yue Stella Yu for Bridge Michigan
Texas: “Texas Is Quietly Using Redistricting Lawsuits to Launch a Broader War Against Federal Voting Rights Law” by Alexa Ura for Texas Tribune
National: “Garland Faces Growing Pressure as Jan. 6 Investigation Widens” by Michael Schmidt, Katie Rogers, and Katie Benner (New York Times) for Seattle Times
Maryland: “Latinos Find Little Room in Majority African American County” by Rachel Chason (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “Cuomo Files Lawsuit and Complaint Targeting Ethics Commission” by Brendan Lyons for Albany Times Union
Ohio: “Former DeWine Aide Warned Governor About Utility Regulator Before the FBI Raided His Home” by Jake Zuckerman for Ohio Capital Journal
National: “Flurry of New Laws Move Blue and Red States Further Apart” by Shawn Hubler and Jill Cowan (New York Times) for Yahoo News
April 4, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Nevada: “Former Democratic Assemblyman Indicted for Campaign Fund Theft, Falsifying Documents” by Sean Golonka for Nevada Independent Elections Florida: “Federal Judge Overturns Parts of Florida Election Law, Citing ‘Horrendous History’ of Racism” by Gary Fineout (Politico) for Yahoo […]
Nevada: “Former Democratic Assemblyman Indicted for Campaign Fund Theft, Falsifying Documents” by Sean Golonka for Nevada Independent
Florida: “Federal Judge Overturns Parts of Florida Election Law, Citing ‘Horrendous History’ of Racism” by Gary Fineout (Politico) for Yahoo News
Wisconsin: “Robin Vos Found in Contempt of Court for Failing to Turn Over Records About the Republican Election Review” by Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) for Yahoo News
Arkansas: “Firm Paying $8M to Arkansas, Feds Over Corruption Probe” by Associated Press for MSN
Kansas: “Kansas Republican Lawmakers Move to Dump the Ethics Boss Leading a Campaign Finance Probe” by Jim McLean (Kansas News Service) for KCUR
Georgia: “Would Longer Session Help Georgia Legislature?” by Craig Nelson for Georgia Public Broadcasting
Maryland: “Md. Dems Pass New Congressional Map – as AG Appeals Gerrymandering Ruling” by Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) for MSN
New York: “New York Judge Strikes Down Democratic-Drawn Maps” by Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) for MSN
April 1, 2022 •
National/Federal Anita Dunn and SKDK: Power and influence in Biden’s Washington MSN – Tyler Pager, Sean Sullivan, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2022 SKDK, a public relations and political strategy firm, is a unique force in Washington, straddling the […]
Anita Dunn and SKDK: Power and influence in Biden’s Washington
MSN – Tyler Pager, Sean Sullivan, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2022
SKDK, a public relations and political strategy firm, is a unique force in Washington, straddling the line between the private sector and the Biden administration to quietly affect change. The firm has served a roster of high-powered clients, including Fortune 500 companies, occasionally foreign governments, and candidates. Neither SKDK nor Anita Dunn, the firm’s co-founder who was an architect of President Biden’s 2020 victory and served in the administration, lobby or represent any clients on matters before the federal government. Still, Dunn’s role is questioned by some ethics experts, who say she has, avoided rules meant to promote transparency.
Did Trump Asking Putin for Dirt on Hunter Biden Violate Election Law?
Newsweek – Ewan Palmer | Published: 3/31/2022
Questions have been raised about whether Donald Trump asking Russian President Vladimir Putin to find information on Hunter Biden’s alleged business dealings was a violation of federal law. Trump once again publicly sought a foreign power’s assistance in unearthing political dirt on one of his political opponents after he repeated dubious claims regarding President Joe Biden’s son. While he has not formally announced his intention to run for president in 2024, some have accused Trump of breaking the law that prohibits any person from soliciting, accepting, or receiving anything of value from a foreign national in connection with an election.
FEC Fines DNC, Clinton for Violating Rules in Funding Steele Dossier
MSN – Eugene Scott (Washington Post) | Published: 3/30/2022
The FEC fined the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for violating rules with the funding of the dossier at the center of accusations of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. The FEC said the fine for the Clinton campaign was $8,000 and the fine for the DNC was $105,000.
Flynn Partner Wins New Trial in Foreign-Agent Case
Yahoo News – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 3/25/2022
A onetime business partner of former President Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn scored a legal victory as a federal judge ordered a new trial for the Iranian-born businessperson on charges he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Turkey as Trump ran for president in 2016. The ruling was the latest lurch in a legal roller coaster ride for Bijan Rafiekian, who was found guilty by a jury, then then had his two felony convictions thrown out only to see the guilty verdicts reinstated by an appeals court.
How Google and Amazon Bankrolled a ‘Grassroots’ Activist Group of Small Business Owners to Lobby Against Big Tech Oversight
CNBC – Eamon Javers and Meghan Maharishi | Published: 3/30/2022
The Connected Commerce Council (3C), which pitches itself as a grassroots movement representing small business owners, is really a well-financed advocacy group funded by Google and Amazon. The companies are currently the council’s sole financial support. Lobbying watchdog group the Campaign for Accountability called 3C an “Astroturf” lobbying organization, thanks to the tech giants’ financial support. The group does have some active small business members, several of whom said they value 3C’s offerings and agree with its issue advocacy in Washington, D.C.
Jan. 6 Committee Backs Contempt Charges for Two Former Trump Aides
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 3/28/2022
Internal White House records from the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol that were turned over to a House select committee show a gap in former President Trump’s phone logs of seven hours and 37 minutes, including the period when the building was being violently assaulted. The seven-hour gap stands in stark contrast to the extensive public reporting about phone conversations Trump had with allies during the attack. One lawmaker on the panel said the committee is investigating a “possible coverup” of the official White House record from that day.
Jan. 6 White House Logs Given to House Show 7-hour Gap in Trump Calls
MSN – Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 3/29/2022
Internal White House records from the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol that were turned over to the House select committee show a gap in former President Trump’s phone logs of seven hours and 37 minutes, including the period when the building was being violently assaulted. The seven-hour gap stands in stark contrast to the extensive public reporting about phone conversations Trump had with allies during the attack. One lawmaker on the panel said the committee is investigating a “possible coverup” of the official White House record from that day.
Justice Dept. Expands Jan. 6 Probe to Look at Rally Prep, Financing
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Jacqueline Alemany, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 3/30/2022
The criminal investigation into the attack on the Capitol has expanded to examine the preparations for the rally that preceded the riot, as the Justice Department aims to determine the full extent of any conspiracy to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory. A federal grand jury has issued subpoena requests to some officials in former President Trump’s orbit who assisted in planning, funding, and executing the January 6 rally.
Lawmakers Aim to Strengthen Transparency in the Lucrative – and Murky – Federal Contracting Process
ABC News – Lucien Bruggeman and Soo Rin Kim | Published: 3/28/2022
A bipartisan coalition of senators introduced legislation meant to improve transparency in the competitive and murky federal contracting process, taking aim at companies that accept lucrative work from government agencies without having to disclose potential conflicts-of-interest. The Preventing Organizational Conflicts of interest in Federal Acquisition Act would force contractors to “disclose other parts of their business that conflict with the work they are bidding to perform for the government,” according to U.S. Sen. Gary Peters.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Resigns After Being Found Guilty of Lying to FBI
MSN – Mariana Alfaro and María Paúl (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2022
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry resigned from Congress after he was convicted on three felony counts for lying to federal investigators about illegal campaign contributions from a foreign billionaire. Foreign nationals are prohibited from donating to candidates running for federal office in the U.S. It is also illegal to disguise a donor’s identity through third-party contributions. Fortenberry was convicted of one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators. Each of the counts carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
Trump Likely Committed Felony Obstruction, Federal Judge Rules
Politico – Kyle Cheney, Josh Gerstein, and Nicholas Wu | Published: 3/28/2022
A federal judge ruled former President Trump “more likely than not” attempted to illegally obstruct Congress as part of a criminal conspiracy when he tried to subvert the 2020 election on January 6, 2021. U.S. District Court Judge David Carter’s ruling came as he ordered the release to a House select committee of 101 emails from Trump ally John Eastman, rejecting Eastman’s effort to shield them via attorney-client privilege. Eastman used the email account of his former employer to discuss political and legal strategy related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election and had sued the committee to prevent them from obtaining the emails.
Trump NLRB Member’s Conflicts Broke Law, Inspector General Alleges
Bloomberg Law – Ian Kullgren | Published: 3/28/2022
Former National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) member William Emanuel allegedly broke federal ethics law by failing to monitor investments that created disqualifying conflicts-of-interest in five cases, according to board documents. The U.S. Department of Justice last year declined to press charges against Emanuel, which ethics experts attributed to the high burden of proof in criminal cases. Documents show his conduct despite repeated warnings created at least the possibility of self-enrichment. The case highlights a gap in ethics enforcement that could be exploited by future appointees at the NLRB and other agencies.
Turmoil at CBS News Over Trump Aide Mick Mulvaney’s Punditry Gig
MSN – Jeremy Barr (Wshington Post) | Published: 3/30/2022
CBS News’s decision to hire former Trump administration official Mick Mulvaney as a paid on-air contributor is drawing backlash within the company because of his history of bashing the press and promoting the former president’s fact-free claims. Many journalists and political commentators suggested the network was jeopardizing its long history of journalistic excellence. One person said the frustration among staff was less about Mulvaney’s high-ranking role in the Trump administration and more about the inaccuracy of some of his past comments.
Virginia Thomas Urged White House Chief to Pursue Unrelenting Efforts to Overturn the 2020 Election, Texts Show
MSN – Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (Washington Post) | Published: 3/24/2022
Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist married to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, repeatedly pressed White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to pursue unrelenting efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in a series of urgent text exchanges in the critical weeks after the vote. The 29 messages reveal an extraordinary pipeline between Virginia Thomas and then-President Trump’s top aide during a period when Trump and his allies were vowing to go to the Supreme Court to negate the election results.
Why Redistricting Has Stalled in 4 Unfinished States
Yahoo News – Ally Mutnick and Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 3/28/2022
The final stage of the redistricting cycle has arrived: gridlock. Spats between governors and state legislators, and between different Republican factions, have brought map-making to a standstill in the final four states still without new congressional lines for the 2022 elections. With filing deadlines looming, 44 House seats are still outstanding in Louisiana, New Hampshire, Missouri and, most importantly, Florida, which has 28 districts all by itself.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Republicans Enact a Controversial New Proof-of-Citizenship Voting Law
KJZZ – Ben Giles | Published: 3/30/2022
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation to expand U.S. citizenship voting requirements in the state, a measure that critics warn will jeopardize the voter registrations of thousands of residents. In signing House Bill 2492, Ducey disputed testimony from local officials and voting rights advocates who say an unknown number of voters – predominantly older, longtime Arizona residents – will be purged from the voter rolls because the last time they registered to vote, there was no requirement to provide proof of citizenship. Critics say those voters would then need to register again.
Arizona – Panel Strikes Down Plan to Give Arizona Lawmakers Big Raises
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 3/28/2022
Arizona lawmakers will still have to depend on voters’ goodwill, or lack thereof, to get more pay. The House Appropriations Committee quashed a proposal to create a system that would peg lawmakers’ salary at 60 percent of what the governor is paid. That would move legislative pay next year from $24,000 to $57,000. The measure would have replaced the current system of having a special commission study the issue and make recommendations that go on the ballot. The death of the package also means some proffered changes on lobbyist reporting also will not take effect.
California – Airbnb Routinely Deploys Its ‘Astroturf Army’ to Combat California Short-Term Rental Regulations, Critics Say
MSN – Silas Valentino (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 3/28/2022
In 2020, one week before the San Diego Planning Commission met to discuss capping the number of short-term rentals in the city, Airbnb emailed its hosts asking for help. “The Planning Commission needs to hear from hosts like you,” read the email, signed by The Airbnb Team. At the bottom there were two links: one to a short form that generated an email to city council members and another to RSVP for the meeting’s public comment session. Airbnb is not the only tech company to generate seemingly grassroots campaigns. In fact, they are so common that BuzzFeed reporter Caroline O’Donovan gave this “click-to-lobby” tactic a name: “Brobilizing.”
Colorado – Judge Says Republican Consultants Didn’t Violate Redistricting Lobbying Rules
Colorado Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 3/25/2022
An administrative law judge ruled former state Sen. Greg Brophy, former House Speaker Frank McNulty, and political strategist Alan Philp did not violate Colorado’s lobbying rules with their work on redistricting last year. A complaint alleged they either failed to register as lobbyists while conducting meetings related to redistricting and proposing ideas for maps, or they did not properly disclose income related to their work. Judge Matthew Norwood concluded their activities did not meet the definition of lobbying.
Connecticut – CT Contracting Watchdog Clears Key Hurdle to Add Investigative Staff
CTMirror.org – Keith Phaneuf | Published: 3/29/2022
Connecticut’s contracting watchdog panel moved one step closer to getting the investigative staff it has sought since its inception 13 years ago. The Government Administration and Elections Committee approved a bill mandating the five investigative posts sought by the State Contracting Standards Board be filled before the first quarter of the next fiscal year ends, in late September. Pressure from legislators to strengthen the watchdog intensified this year following reports the FBI is investigating school construction work and other projects once overseen by Gov. Ned Lamont’s former deputy budget director.
Florida – Ex-Congressman David Rivera Loses ‘Last-Ditch’ Move to Avoid $456,000 Campaign Fine
Florida Bulldog – Francisco Alvarado | Published: 3/28/2022
A federal judge rejected former U.S. Rep. David Rivera’s “last-ditch effort” to dodge a $456,000 judgment against him tied to his decade-old campaign violations. Roughly a year after ruling in favor of the FEC, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke denied Rivera’s motion to dismiss the agency’s lawsuit against him on the grounds he never received mail notices he was going to be sued, and that a five-year statute of limitations had expired when the complaint was filed in 2017. The FEC case is now administratively closed, and Rivera is on the hook for the six-figure judgment.
Florida – Florida’s Redistricting Mess Heads to Special Session after DeSantis Vetoes ‘Defective’ Map
MSN – Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 3/29/2022
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a new congressional map while calling for a mid-April special legislative session so state lawmakers can craft new maps that satisfy him. DeSantis contended the Legislature-approved congressional map was “defective” and violated federal law. He made clear he would be opposed to any proposal designed to keep intact districts that had a sizable minority population, but where minority voters do not constitute an overall majority.
Georgia – Georgia Elections Overhaul Gutted by State Senate Committee, Setting Up Potential Showdown
MSN – Fredreka Schouten (CNN) | Published: 3/29/2022
A Georgia Senate committee eviscerated a controversial elections overhaul a day after local election officials from both parties blasted it as complicating their work in an election year. The fate of the massive bill, which sped through the GOP-led House in March, is now uncertain and could result in a showdown in the final days of the legislative session.
Georgia – Guilty Verdict in Atlanta City Hall Corruption Trial
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 3/23/2022
A jury found a political operative and former Atlanta employee guilty on charges including money laundering, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit bribery that resulted from a long-running federal investigation into corruption at City Hall. Mitzi Bickers was the first person to go to trial over the corruption probe during former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration. Bickers was accused of using her influence to funnel business to city contractors. Prosecutors said she directed roughly $17 million in city work to the two men and their companies in exchange for about $2 million in bribes.
Idaho – Ammon Bundy Pays Himself Thousands in Campaign Cash
Boise State Public Radio – James Dawson | Published: 3/25/2022
Ammon Bundy, the anti-government activist running as an independent candidate to be Idaho’s next governor, has paid thousands of dollars in campaign donations to a company he owns. Bundy’s campaign has paid $13,500 in $1,500 monthly installments since June 1, 2021, to Abish-Husbondi Inc, a company incorporated in Wyoming. Bundy is listed as the company’s president and sole officer in an annual report. Idaho law states that, in general, “A contribution shall lot be converted by any person to personal use.” But the law appears silent on whether candidates can contract with their own businesses.
Illinois – Michael Madigan’s Indictment: How he pushed for allies to get ComEd jobs and his own daughter’s legislation was killed.
MSN – Jeremy Gorner, Dan Petrella, and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/27/2022
Nearly four years ago, legislation that aimed to help low-income electricity customers was making its way to the floor of an Illinois House chamber tightly controlled by its longtime speaker, Michael Madigan. The bill’s main advocate was Madigan’s daughter, then-state Attorney General Lisa Madigan. One of its primary opponents was Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), the state’s largest electric utility. ComEd won because, according to federal prosecutors, Michael Madigan paved the way. Prosecutors allege he greenlighted efforts to defeat his own daughter’s bill as he pressed ComEd to give jobs to two political allies.
Illinois – State Supreme Court: Officials may, sometimes, use campaign funds for criminal defense
Capitol News Illinois – Peter Hancock | Published: 3/24/2022
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled elected public officials and their campaign committees may, in limited circumstances, use campaign funds to pay criminal defense fees. The case involved a former Chicago City Council member, Danny Solis, who reportedly avoided federal prosecution by agreeing to cooperate with the FBI and Department of Justice in their investigation of another alderman, Ed Burke, who was indicted on federal corruption charges.
Kansas – Kansas Governmental Ethics Leader Under Fire Amid Law License Questions. Legislature Eyes Response.
MSN – Andrew Bahl (Topeka Capital Journal) | Published: 3/31/2022
The director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission is under fire over the status of his law license, a conflict that could result in the Legislature pursuing a policy change to target the group and its leader, Mark Skoglund. The issue stems from a broader case regarding whether a group should be considered a political committee. Two motions filed with the ethics panel would push to dismiss or reconsider the case, arguing Skoglund misrepresented his status as an active attorney. Currently, Skoglund’s law license is suspended.
Maryland – FirstEnergy Utility Gave to Pro-Trump Dark Money Group
E&E News – Jeffrey Tomich | Published: 3/28/2022
Records from FirstEnergy’s Maryland utility show some of its customers’ monthly payments in 2017 were secretly flowing to a “dark money” group formed to help further former President Trump’s agenda. The records show Potomac Edison paid $163,000 that year to America First Policies, which was founded by some of Trump’s top administration and campaign officials. The America First payment, made around the time FirstEnergy was pressing the Trump administration for help to rescue coal and nuclear plants, was revealed as part of an ongoing Maryland Public Service Commission investigation. It is among millions of dollars in payments by FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries to groups that are not required to list their donors.
Maryland – Judge Throws Out Maryland Congressional Map Over ‘Extreme’ Gerrymandering
MSN – Meagan Flynn, Ovetta Wiggins, and Erin Cox (Washington Post) | Published: 3/25/2022
A Maryland judge threw out the state’s congressional map, calling it an “extreme partisan gerrymander” in what is a victory for Republicans. The ruling by Anne Arundel County Senior Judge Lynne Battaglia marks the first time in Maryland history a judge has found a congressional map violated the state constitution. Battaglia ruled the map ran afoul of rules laid out in the law traditionally applied to legislative districts, requiring them to be compact and to give regard to political subdivisions. She also ruled the map violated the state constitution’s equal protection, free speech, and free elections clauses.
Maryland – Legal Spending from Mosby Campaign Accounts Did Not Violate Maryland Law, Election Board Finds
Baltimore Sun – Emily Opilo | Published: 3/29/2022
The use of campaign funds for the legal defense of both Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and her husband, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby, did not violate state election law, according to a decision from the Maryland State Board of Elections. The board launched an inquiry into the couple’s spending after both filed reports claiming legal costs paid out to multiple law firms as campaign expenses. State law prohibits any candidate or political committee from using campaign funds for legal expenses related to investigations or court proceedings that “do not have a direct connection with the candidacy.”
Missouri – Dueker Says She Has ‘Good Shot’ at Defeating Page Despite Lack of Campaign Account
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 3/30/2022
A Democrat running in the August primary against incumbent St. Louis County Executive Sam Page says she has no current plans to open a campaign account for her bid. Jane Dueker, a local police union attorney and registered lobbyist, would have to do so under Missouri law if she raises more than $1,000. But because she is a registered lobbyist, she is not allowed to operate a campaign account.
New York – Federal investigators Subpoena Albany Officials for Info Related to Grants and Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin
New York Daily News – Denis Slattery and Michael Gartland | Published: 3/25/2022
Federal investigators issued subpoenas and are seeking information about grants related to New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin’s time as a state senator. Investigators with the Southern District of New York have subpoenaed state officials and Senate employees as they probe money Benjamin steered toward projects in his former district. The inquiry is related to funds doled out through the State and Municipal Facilities Program, a lump sum appropriation in the state budget administered through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.
Ohio – Ohio’s High Court Suggests No Ruling Before Primary on Redistricting Map
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 3/29/2022
The Ohio Supreme Court suggested it will not rule on whether a Republican-drawn congressional map is legal until after the May 3 primary. In January, justices stuck down Republicans’ first redrawing of its congressional districts on grounds it violated a constitutional amendment passed by voters to ban partisan gerrymandering. Republicans submitted a new, minimally altered map in March that Democrats and voting rights groups complained was no better. But a legal technicality restarted the clock on the case, and the court’s schedule indicated it would not have a decision until weeks after Ohioans have cast ballots in the primary.
Oregon – Campaign Finance Reform Advocates Ask Oregon Supreme Court for a New Hearing
Oregon Capital Chronicle – Julia Shumway | Published: 3/24/2022
A coalition of good government groups is asking the Oregon Supreme Court to reconsider a decision that would keep voters from deciding in November whether the state should limit money in politics. The court rejected a request from the proponents of three proposed ballot initiatives to overturn a decision by Secretary of State Shemia Fagan that would prevent the initiatives from appearing on the November ballot. Petitioner Jason Kafoury described a new legal filing asking the court to reconsider their case as a “Hail Mary.”
South Carolina – SC Ethics Commission Stops Silencing Whistleblowers After Free-Speech Lawsuit
Charleston Post and Courier – Avery Wilks | Published: 3/24/2022
The South Carolina Ethics Commission reversed a three decades-old policy preventing anyone who files a complaint against a public official from talking about it unless the complaint is found valid. The decision came after a whistleblower whose complaint was dismissed by the commission sued and said the secrecy violated free speech rights and unfairly silenced people who wanted to report wrongdoing. Leaders in the state Legislature filed documents in the lawsuit saying they never intended for the state’s ethics laws to silence whistleblowers.
South Dakota – SD House Committee Points to ‘In Office’ Clause to Clear
Yahoo News – Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 3/29/2022
Republicans on a South Dakota House committee want to clear the state’s attorney general of impeachment charges for his actions surrounding a 2020 fatal car crash, arguing that anything wrong he did was not part of his work “in office.” But those pushing to remove Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg from office are not giving up before the full House convenes in two weeks. The House committee concluded its monthslong inquiry by voting along party lines late to recommend that Ravnsborg, a Republican, face no impeachment charges.
Vermont – Corporations Can’t Donate to Molly Gray’s Campaign. But Their Lobbyists Host Fundraisers
VTDigger.org – Lola Duffort | Published: 3/30/2022
The four Democratic candidates vying to represent Vermont in the U.S. House have all taken the same pledge: no money from corporate PACs. But while the candidates say they would not take money from PACs representing big business, at least one is receiving significant support from some of the lobbyists who represent their interests in Washington, D.C. Lt. Gov. Molly Gray attended Capitol Hill events hosted by Luke Albee and Ed Pagano, two former chiefs of staff to U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy who have both spent years as corporate lobbyists.
Virginia – Key Youngkin Adviser Is Paid by Political Firms
MSN – Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2022
Matthew Moran works as Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s director of policy and legislative affairs, but the only paycheck he collects is from two political consulting firms. He is on a paid leave from Creative Direct, where he is a vice president, and an affiliate in which he has an ownership interest, Link Public Affairs. Neither firm employs registered lobbyists, but Link runs public affairs campaigns designed to influence legislators. Critics say the arrangement presents a conflict-of-interest and creates a loophole around “revolving-door” laws, which prohibit certain paid state employees from lobbying for a year after leaving their jobs.
West Virginia – How Joe Manchin Aided Coal, and Earned Millions
Yahoo News – Julie Tate, Christopher Flavelle, and Erin Schaff (New York Times) | Published: 3/27/2022
A power plant near Grant Town, West Virginia, is the link between the coal industry and the personal finances of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin. Although the fact that Manchin owns a coal business is well known, an examination by The New York Times offers a more detailed portrait of the degree to which Manchin’s business has been interwoven with his official actions. He created his business while a state lawmaker. Manchin supplied a type of low-grade coal mixed with rock and clay known as “gob” that is typically cast aside as junk by mining companies but can be burned to produce electricity. The Grant Town plant has been the sole customer for his gob for the past 20 years.
March 31, 2022 •
Elections Georgia: “Georgia Elections Overhaul Gutted by State Senate Committee, Setting Up Potential Showdown” by Fredreka Schouten (CNN) for MSN Ethics South Dakota: “SD House Committee Points to ‘In Office’ Clause to Clear” by Stephen Groves (Associated Press) for Yahoo […]
Georgia: “Georgia Elections Overhaul Gutted by State Senate Committee, Setting Up Potential Showdown” by Fredreka Schouten (CNN) for MSN
South Dakota: “SD House Committee Points to ‘In Office’ Clause to Clear” by Stephen Groves (Associated Press) for Yahoo News
National: “Flynn Partner Wins New Trial in Foreign-Agent Case” by Josh Gerstein (Politico) for Yahoo News
National: “How Google and Amazon Bankrolled a ‘Grassroots’ Activist Group of Small Business Owners to Lobby Against Big Tech Oversight” by Eamon Javers and Meghan Maharishi for CNBC
Vermont: “Corporations Can’t Donate to Molly Gray’s Campaign. But Their Lobbyists Host Fundraisers” by Lola Duffort for VTDigger.org
National: “Lawmakers Aim to Strengthen Transparency in the Lucrative – and Murky – Federal Contracting Process” by Lucien Bruggeman and Soo Rin Kim for ABC News
Florida: “Florida’s Redistricting Mess Heads to Special Session after DeSantis Vetoes ‘Defective’ Map” by Gary Fineout (Politico) for MSN
Ohio: “Ohio’s High Court Suggests No Ruling Before Primary on Redistricting Map” by Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) for MSN
March 30, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Florida: “Ex-Congressman David Rivera Loses ‘Last-Ditch’ Move to Avoid $456,000 Campaign Fine” by Francisco Alvarado for Florida Bulldog Idaho: “Ammon Bundy Pays Himself Thousands in Campaign Cash” by James Dawson for Boise State Public Radio Maryland: “Legal Spending […]
Florida: “Ex-Congressman David Rivera Loses ‘Last-Ditch’ Move to Avoid $456,000 Campaign Fine” by Francisco Alvarado for Florida Bulldog
Idaho: “Ammon Bundy Pays Himself Thousands in Campaign Cash” by James Dawson for Boise State Public Radio
Maryland: “Legal Spending from Mosby Campaign Accounts Did Not Violate Maryland Law, Election Board Finds” by Emily Opilo for Baltimore Sun
National: “Jan. 6 White House Logs Given to House Show 7-hour Gap in Trump Calls” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Jan. 6 Committee Backs Contempt Charges for Two Former Trump Aides” by Jacqueline Alemany and Amy Wang (Washington Post) for MSN
Arizona: “Panel Strikes Down Plan to Give Arizona Lawmakers Big Raises” by Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) for Arizona Daily Star
National: “Anita Dunn and SKDK: Power and influence in Biden’s Washington” by Tyler Pager, Sean Sullivan, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) for MSN
Connecticut: “CT Contracting Watchdog Clears Key Hurdle to Add Investigative Staff” by Keith Phaneuf for CTMirror.org
March 29, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Maryland: “FirstEnergy Utility Gave to Pro-Trump Dark Money Group” by Jeffrey Tomich for E&E News New York: “Federal investigators Subpoena Albany Officials for Info Related to Grants and Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin” by Denis Slattery and Michael Gartland […]
Maryland: “FirstEnergy Utility Gave to Pro-Trump Dark Money Group” by Jeffrey Tomich for E&E News
New York: “Federal investigators Subpoena Albany Officials for Info Related to Grants and Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin” by Denis Slattery and Michael Gartland for New York Daily News
National: “Trump Likely Committed Felony Obstruction, Federal Judge Rules” by Kyle Cheney, Josh Gerstein, and Nicholas Wu for Politico
Illinois: “Michael Madigan’s Indictment: How he pushed for allies to get ComEd jobs and his own daughter’s legislation was killed.” by Jeremy Gorner, Dan Petrella, and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
West Virginia: “How Joe Manchin Aided Coal, and Earned Millions” by Julie Tate, Christopher Flavelle, and Erin Schaff (New York Times) for Yahoo News
California: “Airbnb Routinely Deploys Its ‘Astroturf Army’ to Combat California Short-Term Rental Regulations, Critics Say” by Silas Valentino (San Francisco Chronicle) for MSN
Virginia: “Key Youngkin Adviser Is Paid by Political Firms” by Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Why Redistricting Has Stalled in 4 Unfinished States” by Ally Mutnick and Gary Fineout (Politico) for Yahoo News
March 28, 2022 •
Campaign Finance National: “Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Resigns After Being Found Guilty of Lying to FBI” by Mariana Alfaro and María Paúl (Washington Post) for MSN Illinois: “State Supreme Court: Officials may, sometimes, use campaign funds for criminal defense” by Peter […]
National: “Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Resigns After Being Found Guilty of Lying to FBI” by Mariana Alfaro and María Paúl (Washington Post) for MSN
Illinois: “State Supreme Court: Officials may, sometimes, use campaign funds for criminal defense” by Peter Hancock for Capitol News Illinois
Oregon: “Campaign Finance Reform Advocates Ask Oregon Supreme Court for a New Hearing” by Julia Shumway for Oregon Capital Chronicle
National: “Virginia Thomas Urged White House Chief to Pursue Unrelenting Efforts to Overturn the 2020 Election, Texts Show” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (Washington Post) for MSN
Georgia: “Guilty Verdict in Atlanta City Hall Corruption Trial” by Associated Press for Yahoo News
South Carolina: “SC Ethics Commission Stops Silencing Whistleblowers After Free-Speech Lawsuit” by Avery Wilks for Charleston Post and Courier
Colorado: “Judge Says Republican Consultants Didn’t Violate Redistricting Lobbying Rules” by Bente Birkeland for Colorado Public Radio
Maryland: “Judge Throws Out Maryland Congressional Map Over ‘Extreme’ Gerrymandering” by Meagan Flynn, Ovetta Wiggins, and Erin Cox (Washington Post) for MSN
March 25, 2022 •
National/Federal As GOP Lawmakers Push for More Election Fraud Charges, Prosecutors Find Few Cases MSN – Rosalind Helderman and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022 Demands for criminal cases tied to the 2020 election continue to stress the political system […]
As GOP Lawmakers Push for More Election Fraud Charges, Prosecutors Find Few Cases
MSN – Rosalind Helderman and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022
Demands for criminal cases tied to the 2020 election continue to stress the political system and put pressure on prosecutors, particularly elected Republicans. Supporters of former President Trump also are pushing GOP lawmakers, who have already enacted numerous laws tightening voting rules, to stiffen penalties for fraud and create investigative teams aimed at rooting out election malfeasance, efforts that critics say will further suppress voting. But a Washington Post survey of attorneys general and large district attorney offices in the six swing states turned up just 39 cases of people charged with illegal activity related to the November 2020 election.
Capitol Riot Suspect Who Fled to Belarus Granted Asylum, State Media Says
MSN – Rachel Pennett (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022
A man on the FBI’s wanted list for his alleged role in the Capitol riot has been granted asylum in Belarus. Evan Neumann fled to Europe after the insurrection. He lived in Ukraine for four months before crossing into Belarus on foot late last year. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his close ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, have referenced the Capitol riot, calling the prosecution of those involved an example of “double standards” by the U.S. because it frequently criticizes crackdowns on anti-government protests abroad.
Could Proxy Voting Make the House More Inclusive? Some Lawmakers Hope So
MSN – Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) | Published: 3/9/2022
Democrats argued to extend and reimagine two things that have helped the U.S. House weather the coronavirus pandemic ––proxy voting and remote hearings. Those practices are set to expire March 30. Republicans pushed back during the “members’ day” hearing, which gave a broad range of lawmakers the chance to sound off on how the House should operate as the pandemic wanes. Things should return to normal, Republicans said. Some said remote work is ripe for abuse, blamed it for contributing to a toxic culture in Congress, and raised questions of constitutionality.
Ethics Advocates Say Senate Staffers Could Be Breaking Rules on Stock Ownership
NPR – Deirdre Walsh | Published: 3/21/2022
The Senate and the House are considering legislation that would ban members of Congress from trading individual stocks. But there is already a narrow ban in place for some Senate staff members that was enacted in the 1970s, and an outside legal group believes some aides appear to be violating that ban. Senate committee staffers are required to divest stock in industries related to the jurisdiction of the panel they work for. The Campaign Legal Center said its review of financial disclosure forms found five senior Senate committee aides with stock holdings that could run afoul of the rule.
Russian Entities Kept Much of Their D.C. Influence Peddling Outside Public View
MSN – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 3/22/2022
For years, Russian entities registered to lobby under the Lobbying Disclosure Act rather than the Foreign Agents Registration Act. They were able to do that so long as a foreign government or political party was not the “principal beneficiary” of the lobbying effort. Those Russian entities, some of whom have been sanctioned by the Biden administration, are able to influence U.S. policy without disclosing details about the scope of their outreach, such as information about the dates of their activities, names of contacts, speeches or internet postings, and specific expenses on behalf of the client, among other activities.
Ted Cruz’s Latest Troll? Turning His Campaign into a Super PAC
Daily Beast – Roger Sollenberger | Published: 3/22/2022
Federal law says candidates can only give other candidates $2,000 per election. But U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz may have found a loophole. In February, Cruz poured $137,183 into the House campaign for Cassy Garcia, his former staffer turned congressional candidate. Cruz, who is currently challenging the FEC in the Supreme Court, broke new ground, assuming unlimited spending powers and raising campaign finance red flags. None of Garcia’s campaign finance reports show a dime spent on promotion – no advertising, digital marketing, signs, mailings, or get-out-the-vote efforts, just a $600 website.
The Federal Election Commission Slapped Marathon Petroleum Corporation with a $85,000 Fine After It Illegally Contributed $1 Million to 2 Republican PACs
Yahoo News – Bryan Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 3/18/2022
The FEC levied a $85,000 fine against Marathon Petroleum Company after it illegally contributed $1 million to a pair of PACs supporting House and Senate Republicans’ re-election campaigns. Marathon has contracts with the federal government, and campaign finance laws prohibit federal contractors from making any political contributions while negotiating or performing federal contracts.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska House Passes Campaign Contribution Limits Bill
Alaska Public Media – Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) | Published: 3/17/2022
The Alaska House narrowly passed legislation that would set a limit on individual contributions to candidates after prior limits were struck down by a court and the state agency overseeing campaign finance rules urged the Legislature to revisit the issue. The bill would set a $2,000 limit on what an individual could give to a candidate each election cycle. It has a $5,000 a year limit on what an individual can give a group, such as a non-party organization.
California – Alvarez Work for SDG&E Could Have Violated City Ethics Law
Voice of San Diego – Andrew Keatts | Published: 3/21/2022
When former city council member David Alvarez helped San Diego Gas & Electric push an energy infrastructure project, he may have violated San Diego’s prohibition on elected officials influencing city decisions after leaving office. Alvarez says he was working as part of a contract to do community engagement, not lobbying, and therefore is not in violation of ethics law. After leaving office, elected officials face a two-year waiting period during which they cannot influence officials over city decisions.
California – SJ City Council Passes Draft Proposal to Bar Political Donations by Foreign-Owned Corps
California Globe – Evan Symon | Published: 3/23/2022
The city council approved a piece of draft legislation to prohibit foreign-influenced corporations from making political contributions to any city elections in San Jose. The new campaign finance law would not allow corporations with one percent or more ownership by a single foreign national or five percent or more ownership by multiple foreign nationals from making political expenditures in city elections. While the proposal was only a policy memorandum on final draft ordinance language, its passage was seen as an indication the council would pass the ordinance in the coming weeks.
Connecticut – Connecticut Lobbyists Back at Capitol After Two Years to Influence Legislation
Yahoo News – Christopher Keating (Hartford Courant) | Published: 3/20/2022
For the past two years, lobbyists in Connecticut disappeared from the state Capitol as the building was closed to the public for fear of spreading the coronavirus. Now, mask-wearing lobbyists say they are happy to be back after having little personal access to lawmakers during the entire pandemic. While it is impossible to roll back the clock, both lawmakers and lobbyists say some legislation might have been changed over the past two years if the advocates could have lobbied more aggressively and in person as they always did in the past.
Georgia – Augusta Mayor Faces State Law Charges, $800,000 Fines in Ethics Commission Decision
MSN – Susan McCord (Augusta Chronicle) | Published: 3/22/2022
Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis faces charges he broke state laws and fines of more than $800,000 after the Georgia ethics commission found probable cause to move forward with two complaints against him. The investigations stemmed from the origin of billboards encouraging voters to support replacing the James Brown Arena. The billboards appeared a few weeks before a non-binding ballot poll on where to build a new facility. The billboards were attributed to Concerned Citizens of Richmond County. The complaint said unlike a corporation, a ballot committee is required to register with election officials when it raises or spends more than $500.
Georgia – Stacey Abrams Seeks Access Now to Unlimited Fundraising
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 3/20/2022
Georgia’s Democratic candidate for governor, Stacey Abrams, is asserting she should be allowed to immediately begin using a fundraising vehicle that would allow her to raise unlimited contributions because she is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Abrams could sue to gain access to a leadership committee, a type of fundraising committee approved by lawmakers last year. The committees can raise unlimited funds, while top individual donors to Abrams’ direct committee would be limited to giving $7,600 for the May 24 primary election and another $7,600 for the November general election.
Illinois – After the Madigan Charges, Democrats Lack an Appetite for New Ethics Reform This Spring
WBEZ – Dave McKinney | Published: 3/22/2022
The chances of Democrats pushing through a new round of ethics reforms in the wake of former Speaker Michael Madigan appear bleak at the moment, with time running out on the Illinois Legislature’s spring calendar. A top government reform group and a former state legislative watchdog say what lawmakers did last year on ethics is not nearly enough and more stringent safeguards are needed to confront legislative conflicts-of-interest and other misconduct that have been adding to the federal prison population.
Illinois – Chicago City Council Debates Measure to Ban Spouses of Aldermen from Lobbying Elected Officials
MSN – Mary Ann Ahern (WMAQ) | Published: 3/23/2022
A proposed ordinance before the Chicago City Council would prohibit spouses or partners of elected officials from lobbying their fellow aldermen, with the measure following reports that City Clerk and Illinois secretary of state candidate Anna Valencia failed to disclose her husband’s lobbying contracts. Valencia did not disclose her husband Reyahd Kazmi’s lobbying, which is required under state law.
Illinois – Ex-Ald. Ricardo Muñoz Sentenced to 13 Months in Prison for Spending Thousands of Dollars in Political Funds on Tuition, Trips and Sports Tickets
MSN – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/17/2022
Former Chicago Ald. Ricardo Muñoz was sentenced to 13 months in prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from a political campaign fund he controlled and spending it on personal items ranging from iPhones to skydiving excursions. Muñoz had pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering, becoming the latest in a long line of city council members to be caught using their elected positions to line their own pockets.
Illinois – Former State Rep. Edward Acevedo Sentenced to 6 Months in Prison for Tax Case Stemming from ComEd Probe
MSN – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/23/2022
A federal judge sentenced former state Rep. Edward Acevedo on to six months in prison for cheating on his taxes in a prosecution that resulted from the same investigation that led to the indictment of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. Acevedo is now the first person to be sentenced in the sweeping probe that has so far led to charges against Madigan, two of his closest advisers, and a slew of former Commonwealth Edison executives and contract lobbyists, many with ties to the former speaker.
Maryland – Giving from the Grave? Marilyn Mosby’s Dead Grandfather Contributed to Her and Her Husband’s Campaigns
Baltimore Brew – Mark Reutter | Published: 3/23/2022
The grandfather of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby died in 2015 but apparently lives on as a source of campaign money for her and her husband, city council President Nick Mosby. Prescott Thompson is listed as contributing $500 to Marilyn Mosby last year. The report was filed on January 19, 2022, six days after she was indicted on federal charges linked to her purchase of two Florida vacation homes. Marilyn Mosby has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Maryland – Maryland’s High Court Takes Up Gerrymandering Case That Delayed State’s Elections
MSN – Ovetta Wiggins (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022
Maryland’s highest court heard arguments in the gerrymandering case that has shaken up the state’s elections calendar, with Republicans arguing that about a dozen recently redrawn legislative districts are politically, demographically, or racially unfair. The map, approved by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, dictates the boundaries for state Senate and House districts. Under the state constitution, each legislative district is supposed to consist of adjoining land, be compact, and have a substantially equal number of residents. The map must give “due regard” to natural boundaries and the boundaries of political subdivisions.
Maryland – Md. Legislator Says Corporate Funding of ‘Astroturf’ Ad Campaigns Must Be Disclosed
WTOP – Bruce DePuyt | Published: 3/21/2022
An influential Maryland legislator is taking aim at what he considers “astroturf” lobbying by large government contractors. Under a measure sponsored by House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke and 14 others, companies with million-dollar state government contracts would be required to disclose contributions they make to advocacy organizations. Luedtke said the broadcast and internet advertising campaigns these groups sponsor “create the appearance of a grassroots movement when, in truth, support comes from a narrow group of special interests that have a financial interest in a project.”
Michigan – Michigan Republicans Delay Absentee Ballot Signature Rules
MSN – David Eggert (Associated Press) | Published: 3/22/2022
Republican lawmakers delayed until after the November election rules that will tell Michigan election clerks how to match the signatures of people applying for and submitting absentee ballots. The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules’ maneuver to propose bills keeps the regulations from taking effect for nine months. The rules drafted by the state elections bureau eventually will go into effect because Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would likely veto Republicans’ alternative legislation.
Mississippi – Speaker Philip Gunn Uses Secret Capitol Meetings to Pass His Bills and Restrict Public Debate. Is It Legal?
Mississippi Today – Adam Ganucheau | Published: 3/21/2022
Mississippi Speaker Philip Gunn called a House Republican Caucus to a closed-door meeting on March 14. Gunn told the Republicans that he, his chief of staff, and Rep. Trey Lamar had reworked a tax reform proposal that, if passed, could change the way government funds public services for generations. Few House Republicans knew the details of Gunn’s updated proposal until that meeting. A few minutes after the bill passed committee, the entire House passed it on the floor. The caucus meetings are just one tool Gunn regularly employs to strong-arm House Republicans into passing the bills he authors or supports and to restrict public debate among his fellow party mates, critics say.
New Jersey – Bill to Expand New Jersey Bribery Law to Include Candidates for Office Gains Momentum
MSN – Matt Friedman (Politico) | Published: 3/17/2022
After a decade in legislative limbo, a bill that would allow politicians to be convicted of bribery even if they do not hold public office has begun moving in the New Jersey General Assembly. Over the last decade, courts have dismissed charges or overturned convictions against several politicians based on the loophole, despite evidence they took bribes with the intention of granting official favors if elected. The bill that expands the definition of “public servant” in the state’s bribery statute.
New Mexico – Cowboys for Trump Co-Founder Charged with Campaign Violation
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 3/18/2022
A New Mexico elected official was charged with a misdemeanor campaign finance violation for refusing to register his political group Cowboys for Trump, the state’s attorney general announced. Couy Griffin, a county commissioner, has been facing off with state election regulators for more than a year over whether he needs to register the group as a political committee. Griffin expressed concern that registering may lead to other disclosure requirements about contributions and spending.
New Mexico – New Harassment Allegations Against Lawmaker Prompt Call for State Ethics Commission to Handle Future Complaints
New Mexico In Depth – Marjorie Childress and Trip Jennings | Published: 3/21/2022
Representatives of eight organizations called for New Mexico Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto to resign or for his legislative colleagues to remove him from office if he did not leave, in an open letter containing new allegations of sexual harassment and bullying. The accusations against Ivey-Soto come a month after lobbyist Marianna Anay accused him of sexually harassing her. After receiving Anaya’s complaint in February, legislative leaders opened an investigation into Ivey-Soto, adhering to a system where complaints against state lawmakers are kept confidential in a procedure overseen by other lawmakers.
New York – Ethics Commission Orders Cuomo to Repay $5.1M from Book Deal
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/18/2022
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) passed a motion again ordering former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to repay $5.1 million in book royalties. Cuomo is already stating he will contest the order and will not comply. This time, JCOPE is taking a near-certain legal battle with Cuomo into its own hands.
New York – Hochul’s Ethics Overhaul Plan Wilts but New Plan Is Pushed
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/23/2022
Although lawmakers have not shut the door on reforming the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to have law school leaders appoint members of a new ethics panel appears dead. In its wake, a coalition good-government groups sent a new proposal to the governor’s office, the Assembly, and the state Senate, all controlled by Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said there is still a potential for an ethics overhaul as part of the budget process.
New York – Prosecutor Who Resigned Over Stalled Trump Probe Says Ex-President Committed Felonies
MSN – Shayna Jacobs, Josh Dawsey, and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 3/23/2022
A veteran prosecutor who resigned from a special appointment to the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into Donald Trump’s finances and business practices said the former president personally committed felonies and should be charged promptly. The comments were made in Mark Pomerantz’s resignation letter as he and Carey Dunne, another top investigator on the team probing Trump and the family-run Trump Organization, abruptly left the office after people familiar with the matter said District Attorney Alvin Bragg appeared uninterested in pursuing a case.
North Carolina – N.C. Investigates Mark Meadows After Reports That He Never Lived Where He Registered to Vote
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 3/17/2022
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation are probing Mark Meadows over his voter registration after news organizations reported the former White House chief of staff registered to vote in 2020 using the address of a mobile home that he has never lived in. WRAL reported the State Board of Elections is also investigating Meadows. It is illegal to provide false information on a voter registration, and while Americans can have multiple residences, they can have only one official domicile, which is tied to their voter registration.
North Dakota – North Dakota Ethics Panel to Split Proposed Conflict of Interest Rules
Bismarck Tribune – Jack Dura | Published: 3/23/2022
The North Dakota Ethics Commission decided to split draft conflict-of-interest rules into two categories for further review. The panel is writing the rules for state government officials and members of certain boards to disclose conflicts and some campaign contributions when handling “quasi-judicial” proceedings. Commissioner Paul Richard recommended the consolidated rules for general conflicts-of-interest and for “quasi-judicial” proceedings be split. The board’s attorney also walked its members through revisions to the proposed rules.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Shareholders’ Attorneys Identify Charles Jones, Michael Dowling for Devising House Bill 6 Payments
Cleveland Plain Dealer – John Caniglia | Published: 3/23/2022
Charles Jones, the former chief executive officer of FirstEnergy, and Michael Dowling, who led the company’s lobbying efforts, “devised and orchestrated” a $64 million bribery scheme to pay a top Ohio legislative leader and utility regulator in exchange for official action, according to a sworn declaration in court. While Jones and Dowling were both suspected central characters in the operation – both were fired after initial FBI arrests in the case – the new filing marks the first time the two were personally identified. FirstEnergy said it paid the bribes to help pass House Bill 6, an energy policy overhaul worth an estimated $1.3 billion to the utility.
Ohio – Ohio GOP Governor Candidate Joe Blystone Ordered to Return More Than $100,000 in Campaign Donations
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer | Published: 3/23/2022
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office says Republican Joe Blystone’s campaign for governor must refund a total of more than $100,000 in contributions that violate the state’s limit on cash donations or ban on corporate contributions. The flagged contributions include more than $101,000 in donations that exceed the state’s limit of $100 for each contribution made in cash, according to Brian Katz, campaign finance director for LaRose’s office. Katz also said it is necessary for Blystone to refund $1,100 in in-kind contributions from corporations, which are not allowed to give to Ohio candidates.
Oklahoma – Lawmakers Again Stifle Debate on Applying Open Records Law to Themselves
Oklahoma Watch – Trevor Brown | Published: 3/17/2022
Lawmakers’ emails to lobbyists, calendars, call logs, and other records that could give the public insight into the bills they craft are set to remain secret for at least another year. A bill that would have ended Oklahoma’s status as one of a handful of states that allows the Legislature to exempt itself from open records and meeting laws failed to clear a key legislative deadline. The proposal would have ended a decades-old exemption that allowed the Legislature to ignore the open records and meeting laws that city councils, county commissioners, school boards, and other state governing bodies must follow.
Oregon – Oregon Supreme Court Ruling Likely Dooms Campaign Finance Limits This Year
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 3/18/2022
In a setback for election reformers, the Oregon Supreme Court declined to direct Secretary of State Shemia Fagan to reverse a decision to disqualify ballot measures aimed at limiting campaign contributions. Proponents of the measures asked the Supreme Court to step in and rule Fagan’s interpretation of the state constitution was incorrect. If justices had agreed, it might have given the group enough time to collect signatures and put one of their proposals before voters. But the court ruled that intervening in the case would not be appropriate.
Pennsylvania – Kenyatta Johnson Corruption Case Heads to Trial After Pandemic Delays
WHYY – Aaron Moselle | Published: 3/18/2022
Philadelphia City Councilperson Kenyatta Johnson and his wife, political consultant Dawn Chavous, are headed to court more than two years after they were charged in a federal fraud and racketeering case. The couple will be joined by Abdur Rahim Islam and Shahied Dawan, two former executives at Universal Companies, a nonprofit real estate developer and charter-school operator headquartered in Johnson’s legislative district. Federal prosecutors say the co-defendants participated in a tangled quid pro quo that saw Johnson use his council seat to help Universal in exchange for a series of bribes concealed as payments to Chavous’ consulting firm, which the nonprofit had hired.
Tennessee – Campaign Finance Probes of Ex-Speaker, Ex-Staffer Head to DA
Yahoo News – Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) | Published: 3/17/2022
The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance’s voted to give prosecutors their investigations surrounding a former House speaker and his then-chief of staff, who have been implicated in an alleged political consulting kickback scheme. Another former lawmaker recently plead guilty to helping carry out the scheme. The vote refers the probes about former House Speaker Glen Casada, his former chief of staff Cade Cothren, and the Faith Family Freedom Fund PAC to the Williamson County district attorney’s office.
Vermont – Vermont Code of Ethics Bill Unanimously Passes State Senate
MSN – Lisa Rathke (Associated Press) | Published: 3/23/2022
A bill to create a state code of ethics for elected and appointed officials, legislators, and all state employees was passed unanimously by Vermont Senate. A majority of other states already have similar codes. The bill, which now goes to the House, also would apply to individuals appointed to state boards and commissions or who are authorized to act or speak on behalf of the state. Anyone who violates the code of ethics can be investigated by the Vermont State Ethics Commission.
Wisconsin – Supreme Court Rejects GOP Bid to Block Wisconsin Congressional Map but Sides with Republicans in State Legislative Map Dispute
MSN – Tierney Sneed (CNN) | Published: 3/23/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Republican Party request that it upend a congressional map adopted by the Wisconsin Supreme Court that was preferred by Democrats. That redistricting plan had a Republican lean but was still favored by Democrats because of the potential it could give them at least one additional seat in the U.S. House. The justices, however, also on issued an order in a separate Wisconsin redistricting case that blocked a state legislative map adopted by the state Supreme Court that was backed by Democrats.
Wyoming – Alleged Threats by Wyoming Legislators Lead to Calls for Civility
Pinedale Roundup – Jonathan Make (Wyoming Tribune Eagle) | Published: 3/17/2022
Amid new allegations of a state legislator making verbal threats, some who do business in the Wyoming Capitol here are seeking a return to greater civility. News emerged that state Rep. John Romero-Martinez allegedly threatened, in speaking with others, the lives of Rep. Andi LeBeau and former Rep. Sara Burlingame. In recent days, legislative leaders had separately asked a Senate panel to consider whether to launch a formal investigation into allegations recently brought against Sen. Anthony Bouchard. The full Senate has stripped Bouchard of his committee assignments.
Wyoming – Bill Signed into Law Attempts to Close Dark Money Loopholes
Wyoming News Tribune – Jasmine Hall | Published: 3/19/2022
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed into law a bill that attempts to close “dark money” loopholes through additional campaign finance reporting fees. The new law requires all campaigns, PACs, and organizations to file an itemized statement of contributions and expenditures. If there is a failure to file the reports with the secretary of state, there can be a final order imposing a civil penalty. The penalty can be up to $500 a day beginning on the date of the final order and ending when the final report is filed. Previously, it was a one-time fee of $500.
Wyoming – Federal Judge Sides with Wyoming Gun Owners in Campaign Ad Lawsuit
Cowboy State Daily – Jim Angell and Ellen Fike | Published: 3/21/2022
A federal judge said Wyoming cannot force a Second Amendment advocacy group to share the names of its donors. U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled in favor of Wyoming Gun Owners (WyGo), finding the state law requiring the group to share a list of people who helped pay for a campaign ad is unconstitutional. The secretary of state’s office said WyGO was required to file campaign finance reports, including a list of contributions and expenditures, because it had spent more than $500 on “political activity.”
March 24, 2022 •
Campaign Finance National: “Ted Cruz’s Latest Troll? Turning His Campaign into a Super PAC” by Roger Sollenberger for Daily Beast Alaska: “Alaska House Passes Campaign Contribution Limits Bill” by Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) for Alaska Public Media California: “SJ City […]
National: “Ted Cruz’s Latest Troll? Turning His Campaign into a Super PAC” by Roger Sollenberger for Daily Beast
Alaska: “Alaska House Passes Campaign Contribution Limits Bill” by Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) for Alaska Public Media
California: “SJ City Council Passes Draft Proposal to Bar Political Donations by Foreign-Owned Corps” by Evan Symon for California Globe
Maryland: “Giving from the Grave? Marilyn Mosby’s Dead Grandfather Contributed to Her and Her Husband’s Campaigns” by Mark Reutter for Baltimore Brew
National: “As GOP Lawmakers Push for More Election Fraud Charges, Prosecutors Find Few Cases” by Rosalind Helderman and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) for MSN
Michigan: “Michigan Republicans Delay Absentee Ballot Signature Rules” by David Eggert (Associated Press) for MSN
Wisconsin: “Supreme Court Rejects GOP Bid to Block Wisconsin Congressional Map but Sides with Republicans in State Legislative Map Dispute” by Tierney Sneed (CNN) for MSN
National: “Capitol Riot Suspect Who Fled to Belarus Granted Asylum, State Media Says” by Rachel Pennett (Washington Post) for MSN
Ohio: “Former FirstEnergy CEO Jones, Vice President Dowling Paid Bribes in Scheme, Affidavit Says” by Jim Mackinnon (Akron Beacon Journal) for Yahoo News
March 23, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Maryland: “Md. Legislator Says Corporate Funding of ‘Astroturf’ Ad Campaigns Must Be Disclosed” by Bruce DePuyt for WTOP Wyoming: “Federal Judge Sides with Wyoming Gun Owners in Campaign Ad Lawsuit” by Jim Angell and Ellen Fike for Cowboy […]
Maryland: “Md. Legislator Says Corporate Funding of ‘Astroturf’ Ad Campaigns Must Be Disclosed” by Bruce DePuyt for WTOP
Wyoming: “Federal Judge Sides with Wyoming Gun Owners in Campaign Ad Lawsuit” by Jim Angell and Ellen Fike for Cowboy State Daily
Georgia: “Augusta Mayor Faces State Law Charges, $800,000 Fines in Ethics Commission Decision” by Susan McCord (Augusta Chronicle) for MSN
Illinois: “After the Madigan Charges, Democrats Lack an Appetite for New Ethics Reform This Spring” by Dave McKinney for WBEZ
New Mexico: “New Harassment Allegations Against Lawmaker Prompt Call for State Ethics Commission to Handle Future Complaints” by Marjorie Childress and Trip Jennings for New Mexico In Depth
Mississippi: “Speaker Philip Gunn Uses Secret Capitol Meetings to Pass His Bills and Restrict Public Debate. Is It Legal?” by Adam Ganucheau for Mississippi Today
National: “Russian Entities Kept Much of Their D.C. Influence Peddling Outside Public View” by Hailey Fuchs (Politico) for MSN
California: “Alvarez Work for SDG&E Could Have Violated City Ethics Law” by Andrew Keatts for Voice of San Diego
March 22, 2022 •
Campaign Finance National: “The Federal Election Commission Slapped Marathon Petroleum Corporation with a $85,000 Fine After It Illegally Contributed $1 Million to 2 Republican PACs” by Bryan Metzger (Business Insider) for Yahoo News Georgia: “Stacey Abrams Seeks Access Now to […]
National: “The Federal Election Commission Slapped Marathon Petroleum Corporation with a $85,000 Fine After It Illegally Contributed $1 Million to 2 Republican PACs” by Bryan Metzger (Business Insider) for Yahoo News
Georgia: “Stacey Abrams Seeks Access Now to Unlimited Fundraising” by Associated Press for MSN
New Mexico: “Cowboys for Trump Co-Founder Charged with Campaign Violation” by Associated Press for Yahoo News
Wyoming: “Bill Signed into Law Attempts to Close Dark Money Loopholes” by Jasmine Hall for Wyoming News Tribune
National: “Ethics Advocates Say Senate Staffers Could Be Breaking Rules on Stock Ownership” by Deirdre Walsh for NPR
New York: “Ethics Commission Orders Cuomo to Repay $5.1M from Book Deal” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
Pennsylvania: “Kenyatta Johnson Corruption Case Heads to Trial After Pandemic Delays” by Aaron Moselle for WHYY
Connecticut: “Connecticut Lobbyists Back at Capitol After Two Years to Influence Legislation” by Christopher Keating (Hartford Courant) for Yahoo News
March 21, 2022 •
Campaign Finance Oregon: “Oregon Supreme Court Ruling Likely Dooms Campaign Finance Limits This Year” by Dirk VanderHart for OPB Tennessee: “Campaign Finance Probes of Ex-Speaker, Ex-Staffer Head to DA” by Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) for Yahoo News Elections North Carolina: […]
Oregon: “Oregon Supreme Court Ruling Likely Dooms Campaign Finance Limits This Year” by Dirk VanderHart for OPB
Tennessee: “Campaign Finance Probes of Ex-Speaker, Ex-Staffer Head to DA” by Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) for Yahoo News
North Carolina: “N.C. Investigates Mark Meadows After Reports That He Never Lived Where He Registered to Vote” by Felicia Sonmez and Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) for MSN
Illinois: “Ex-Ald. Ricardo Muñoz Sentenced to 13 Months in Prison for Spending Thousands of Dollars in Political Funds on Tuition, Trips and Sports Tickets” by Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) for MSN
New Jersey: “Bill to Expand New Jersey Bribery Law to Include Candidates for Office Gains Momentum” by Matt Friedman (Politico) for MSN
Oklahoma: “Lawmakers Again Stifle Debate on Applying Open Records Law to Themselves” by Trevor Brown for Oklahoma Watch
Wyoming: “Alleged Threats by Wyoming Legislators Lead to Calls for Civility” by Jonathan Make (Wyoming Tribune Eagle) for Pinedale Roundup
National: “Could Proxy Voting Make the House More Inclusive? Some Lawmakers Hope So” by Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) for MSN
March 18, 2022 •
National/Federal Biden Doles Out Ethics Waivers at Greater Clip Than Trump, Watchdog Reports Washington Examiner – Andrew Kerr | Published: 3/16/2022 President Biden pledged to lead “the most ethically rigorous administration in history,” but his administration has excused top officials from […]
Biden Doles Out Ethics Waivers at Greater Clip Than Trump, Watchdog Reports
Washington Examiner – Andrew Kerr | Published: 3/16/2022
President Biden pledged to lead “the most ethically rigorous administration in history,” but his administration has excused top officials from federal ethics regulations at a greater rate than Donald Trump, a watchdog group reported. Biden’s ethics pledge and federal laws prohibit officials from engaging in matters involving their former employers for at least one year after being sworn in, but those regulations can be waived if the interests of the federal government outweigh possible ethical concerns.
Document in Jan. 6 Case Shows Plan to Storm Government Buildings
Yahoo News – Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 3/15/2022
A document found by federal prosecutors in the possession of a far-right leader contained a detailed plan to surveil and storm government buildings around the Capitol on January 6 last year. The document, titled “1776 Returns,” was cited by prosecutors in charging the far-right leader, Enrique Tarrio, the former head of the Proud Boys extremist group, with conspiracy. The indictment of Tarrio described the document in general terms, but people familiar with it added substantial new details about the scope and complexity of the plan it set out for directing an effort to occupy six House and Senate office buildings and the Supreme Court.
Exxon Mobil’s Lobbying Report Sets Benchmark, ESG Advocates Say
MSN – Ellen Meyers (Roll Call) | Published: 3/10/2022
A report from Exxon Mobil outlining its lobbying activities is giving investors insight into how one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies advocates on climate policies and other issues and sets a benchmark to measure disclosure on political spending by other companies, advocates say. Exxon Mobil released the report on its 2020 lobbying efforts on climate in response to a shareholder resolution from the United Steelworkers trade union and the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids.
Fearing Political Violence in 2024, Judges Sentence Jan. 6 Defendants to Probation Through the Next Election
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 3/15/2022
Federal judges are increasingly sentencing defendants who participated in the January 6, 2021, breach of the Capitol to three-year terms of court supervision, fearing they could be misled into committing political violence in the 2024 presidential election. James Little became the first defendant to receive a combination of a 60-day jail term and 36 months of probation. Little pleaded guilty after telling the FBI he saw President Biden’s election victory as “the second Bolshevik revolution” and warned agents and the Democratic Party of civil war if it were not overturned.
Ginni Thomas, Wife of Supreme Court Justice, Says She Attended Jan. 6 ‘Stop-the-Steal’ Rally Before Capitol Attack
MSN – Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 3/14/2022
Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, for the first time publicly acknowledged she participated in the January 6, 2021 “Stop-the-Steal” rally on the Ellipse that preceded the storming of the U.S. Capitol, raising questions about the impartiality of her husband’s work. Ginni Thomas said she was at the rally for a short period of time, got cold, and went home before Trump took the stage that day. In February 2021, she apologized to her husband’s former law clerks after a rift developed among them over her election advocacy of Trump and endorsement of the rally that led to violence and death at the Capitol.
GOP Pushes for an ‘Earthquake in American Electoral Power’
MSN – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 3/9/2022
A legal argument lurking in two U.S. Supreme Court cases could give Republican legislators in battleground states sweeping control over election procedures, with ramifications that could include power over how states select presidential electors. Republicans from Pennsylvania and North Carolina challenged court-ordered redistricting plans in their states based on the “independent legislature” theory. It is a reading of the Constitution, stemming from the 2000 election recount in Florida, that argues legislators have ultimate power over elections in their states and that state courts have a limited ability, or none at all, to check it.
Inside the Effort to Disbar Attorneys Who Backed Bogus Election Lawsuits
MSN – Tierny Sneed (CNN) | Published: 3/10/2022
Lawyers who backed former President Trump’s bogus election reversal gambits are facing fresh opposition for their involvement in the form of a flashy new campaign, launched by fellow members of the legal community, aimed at potentially disbarring the Trump-aligned attorneys. Those who have sought disciplinary responses say the post-election conduct crossed ethical lines into the realm of professional misconduct, and that the tactics were well outside the normal bounds of legal challenges to election procedures. Already several ex-Trump lawyers have found themselves subject to state bar reviews.
K Street Firms Starting to Tap Private Equity, Even Go Public
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 3/16/2022
Some K Street firms are seeking investment dollars, often to hire up in areas such as polling, public relations, digital and grassroots organizing, and state-level lobbying. Some policy and lobbying shops have inked deals with private equity firms, and more are likely on the way. In another twist for the industry, a group of prominent firms banded together and went public on a stock exchange in London late last year. These moves represent a clear shift from two decades ago when advertising conglomerates acquired many of Washington’s biggest operations.
Lobbying Broke All-Time Mark in 2021 Amid Flurry of Government Spending
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) | Published: 3/12/2022
President Biden’s domestic agenda has taken a back seat to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but it drew unprecedented attention from K Street lobbyists and special interest groups last year. The lobbying industry had a record year in 2021, taking in $3.7 billion in revenue as companies, associations, and other organizations pressed Congress and the administration over trillions of dollars in new pandemic spending and rules affecting health care, travel, and other industries. The revenue figures show lobbying spending began steadily growing in 2017 before mostly flattening in 2020 as the pandemic began.
Omarosa Manigault Newman Ordered to Pay $61,000 Over Trump-Era Ethics Violation
HuffPost – Nina Golgowski | Published: 3/16/2022
Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman was ordered to pay more than $61,000 after a federal judge said she “willfully” refused to file financial disclosure documents after being fired from the Trump administration. A law required Manigault Newman to file a public financial disclosure report within 30 days of her termination on December 12, 2017. Her report was not received until September 2019, three months after a lawsuit was filed against her over her failure to comply.
Russian Oligarch Andrey Muraviev Indicted in Political Contribution Scheme Linked to Illegal Donors to Trump PAC
CNBC – Dan Mangan | Published: 3/14/2022
A Russian oligarch linked to men accused of making illegal donations to a PAC set up for former President Trump was himself indicted by a federal grand jury for using those men to funnel contributions to other politicians. The oligarch, Andrey Muraviev, already was publicly known to have been the source of donations made on his behalf by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Those two Soviet-born former associates of Trump’s ex-lawyer Rudy Giuliani used money from Muraviev for contributions to try to get licenses for retail cannabis and marijuana businesses.
Trump Accused of Breaking Campaign Laws by Teasing 2024 Run
MSN – Meg Kinnard (Associated Press) | Published: 3/14/2022
As former President Trump continues to tease a future White House bid, a pro-Democratic super PAC accused him of violating federal campaign laws by raising and spending money for a run without officially filing his candidacy. Alleging that Trump has already privately decided to mount a 2024 campaign, American Bridge says he was then obligated to file a candidacy intent statement within 15 days of receiving contributions or making any expenditure over $5,000.
U.S. Lobbyists Connect Ukraine Officials with Powerful Allies to Help in War Against Russia
CNBC – Brian Schwartz | Published: 3/15/2022
Lobbyists are working to connect Ukrainian officials with powerful allies in the U.S., including mayors, governors, and representatives of at least one firearm’s dealer to help the war-torn country in its fight against Russia. At least one American firm and a separate lawyer each recently disclosed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act that they started pro-bono work for Ukrainian government officials since the start of Russia’s invasion. The move for these types of advisors to start helping Ukrainian leaders comes as Western sanctions have led to lobbyists distancing themselves from Russian backed entities.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Set to Go on Trial, Which Will Focus on His Memory and Money
Lincoln Journal-Star – Todd Cooper (Omaha World-Herald) | Published: 3/13/2022
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska is on trial over accusations he lied about illegal campaign contributions from a Nigerian billionaire. The trial is the first of a sitting member of Congress in 21 years. Fortenberry has pleaded not guilty to charges he intentionally misled FBI agents and prosecutors who were investigating a $30,000 donation from Gilbert Chagoury during a 2016 fundraiser in Los Angeles.
From the States and Municipalities
California – ‘Abstain’: Are OC officials using a public meeting ethics check to dodge accountability?
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada and Brandon Pho | Published: 3/16/2022
At any given public meeting, local officials in Orange County could make rent control or high-rise developments part of their residents’s lives with a simple “Yes” or “No” vote. But some elected leaders are turning to a third way to vote on controversial policies during public meetings: the abstention. It is traditionally used by elected officials to shield against conflicts-of-interest when voting on issues they may have a personal stake in. At least one city is raising questions about whether the abstention has now become a way for elected officials to avoid taking any stance at all, dodging accountability by invoking the non-vote for vague or unpersuasive reasons.
Colorado – A State Lawmaker Dropped His Firearm Inside the Capitol While Hurrying to a Vote
Colorado Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 3/14/2022
A Colorado lawmaker accidentally dropped his handgun in a public area inside the state Capitol recently. The firearm did not discharge, and no one was injured. State Rep. Richard Holtorf was hurrying up a short set of steps outside the House chamber when his handgun fell out of his pants onto the marble floor. The witnesses said Holtorf quickly picked it up and proceeded to enter the chamber. “This incident was unacceptable and created a dangerous situation for lawmakers, staff, and the public visiting the Capitol,” said House Speaker Alec Garnett.
Colorado – Colorado Campaign Donation Limits Stand – for Now – After Federal Court Ruling
Colorado Sun – Sandra Fish | Published: 3/11/2022
A federal judge denied a request for a preliminary injunction to suspend Colorado’s campaign contribution limits. Individual donors are limited to giving $400 to state legislative candidates and $1,250 to candidates for statewide office. Senior U.S. District Court Judge John Kane said a full trial based on more extensive evidence must be held before the donation caps are rejected. Still, Kane agreed the limits are likely too low, leaving open the possibility they could be overturned after a trial in the coming months.
Florida – Disney Suspends Political Donations in Florida After Bill Restricting LGBTQ Discussion
MSN – Kelsey Ables (Washington Post) | Published: 3/12/2022
Disney announced it would pause all political donations in Florida in the wake of a state bill that restricts discussion of LGBTQ issues in public schools. Over the last few weeks, the company had received criticism for remaining about what critics call the “don’t say gay” bill, which is expected to be signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek also said the company would increase support for advocacy groups fighting similar laws elsewhere and would reassess Disney’s political donation policies.
Hawaii – Honolulu Councilwoman Tupola Likely Violated Ethics Laws, Commission Finds
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 3/10/2022
Honolulu City Councilperson Andria Tupola likely violated the law when she tried to use $1,500 in city funds to reimburse herself for items purchased for her former employer’s events, the Honolulu Ethics Commission determined. The commission determined Tupola had a conflict-of-interest, likely violated the city’s fair and equal treatment law and should repay the money.
Illinois – Ethics Board Fines Cook County Official Who ‘Flagrantly’ Disregarded Nepotism Ban; She Must Now Fire Her Cousin as Her Top Aide
Yahoo News – Alice Yin (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 3/15/2022
Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt must fire her cousin from his chief of staff position in her office and pay the county $2,000 for violating rules against nepotism, the county Ethics Board ruled. The formal admonishment comes after Wendt hired her cousin, Todd Thielmann, as her top staffer, triggering an investigation from the board tasked with disciplining employees who flout the ordinance governing best practices within their offices.
Iowa – Democrats Move Closer to Cutting Iowa’s First-in-the Nation Status for 2024 Presidential Calendar
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 3/11/2022
Democratic leaders took another step toward ending Iowa’s status as the first state in the party’s presidential nominating process during a sometimes contentious meeting that showed clear support for a new path that would prioritize more diverse and competitive states. The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee came to no final decisions, but for the second time this year, a majority of speakers made clear their openness to shaking up the presidential primary calendar to better reflect what speakers described as the party’s values.
Louisiana – Louisiana Lobbyist Arrested for Domestic Violence Faces Restrictions, Questions at Capitol
Louisiana Illuminator – Julie O’Donoghue | Published: 3/10/2022
Kevin Hayes, a Louisiana lobbyist who was arrested for domestic violence, has been visiting the Capitol, even though one of his alleged victims works in the building and has a protective order in place against him. The circumstances have raised red flags for domestic violence prevention advocates who question why Hayes is not facing more restrictions inside the statehouse. The incident also brought attention to his clients who have stuck with him in spite of his arrest.
Maryland – Maryland Court Delays State’s Primary Until July Amid Redistricting Challenge
MSN – Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox (Washington Post) | Published: 3/15/2022
Maryland’s highest court moved the state’s gubernatorial primary elections to July 19, a three-week delay, to allow time to resolve a legal challenge to recently redrawn legislative districts. Several candidates in the crowded race for governor welcomed the court decision, which gives them more time to raise their profile before the primary. But some observers worried that pushing the election into prime vacation season could prompt voter confusion or disenfranchisement.
Maryland – Top Maryland Democratic Party Official Resigns After Questioning Electability of Black Candidates
MSN – Ovetta Wiggins (Washington Post) | Published: 3/15/2022
A top Maryland Democratic Party official who questioned whether voters would elect a Black candidate for governor stepped down as calls for her departure escalated. Barbara Goldberg Goldman, a prolific donor who was the party’s deputy treasurer, resigned and publicly apologized for the comments. Goldberg Goldman wrote in an email: “Consider this: Three African American males have run statewide for Governor and have lost. Maryland is not a Blue state. It’s a purple one. This is a fact we must not ignore.”
Michigan – Michigan House Republicans Introduce Ethics Reforms Amid Chatfield Probe
Business News Street – Craig Mauger (Detroit News) | Published: 3/16/2022
Michigan House Republicans proposed a series of ethics reforms that respond to controversies surrounding former Speaker Lee Chatfield, who is under investigation by the State Police and Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office. The new bills would stop elected officials from paying immediate family members’ wages out of their campaign accounts and would ban lawmakers from having their travel paid for by lobbyists. The legislation also bans lawmakers from being reimbursed for trips, travel, or lodging through a nonprofit organization.
New York – Adams Quietly Undoes de Blasio-Era Lobbying Disclosure Requirement
MSN – Sally Goldenberg (Politico) | Published: 3/14/2022
New York City Mayor Eric Adams is ending a policy implemented under his predecessor, Bill de Blasio, of having top administration officials disclose meetings with lobbyists. De Blasio’s policy was voluntary and not required by law. Adams spokesperson Jonah Allon said the City Hall counsel’s office regularly trains staff about the “proper rules and regulations governing interactions with lobbyists,” who, by law, are required to report their meetings with government officials to the city clerk’s lobbying bureau. The move is the latest evidence that transparency may not be a priority for Adams.
New York – Chinese Operative Accused in Plot to Undermine US Candidate
MSN – Eric Tucker (Associated Press) | Published: 3/16/2022
Five people accused of acting on behalf of the Chinese government have been charged with plotting to stalk and harass Chinese dissidents living in the United States. One of the victims is a little-known congressional candidate in New York whose election bid a Chinese operative sought to undermine by seeking to uncover or even manufacture derogatory information that would cause him to lose the race, prosecutors said.
New York – Hochul Campaign Repays Almost $11K More for Aircraft Misuse
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/16/2022
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign reimbursed taxpayers an additional $10,742 stemming from three days in which she used state aircraft for campaigning but improperly billed taxpayers for the travel. The Albany Times Union flagged three initial, problematic days of Hochul air travel. Those trips mixed campaign and state business, but the administration charged taxpayers with the entire cost of each. In January, the administration said it would review all flights; the campaign subsequently paid back an initial $19,949 for the three days of travel examined by the reporting.
New York – State Board of Elections Begins Enforcing Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws
New York Focus – Sam Mellins | Published: 3/11/2022
The New York State Board of Elections has begun to enforce a law that is meant to limit “dark money” in elections by notifying thousands of corporate donors they are violating it. For three years, key provisions of the law went unenforced, and limited liability companies (LLCs) continued to make anonymous donations to campaigns. Notifying the companies is the first step towards enforcement. But imposing consequences on campaigns and donors would be more difficult. Current law, which the board has asked the Legislature to update, does not allow it to bring penalties against LLCs that are in violation.
New York – To Force Cuomo to Repay Millions, Ethics Commission Mulls New Tactic
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 3/15/2022
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics may adopt a new strategy in their attempt to force ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to repay $5.1 million in book royalties, according to people with knowledge of the deliberations. Some commissioners are mulling a plan that would cut state Attorney General Letitia James out of the process of seeking the repayment. James’ office has expressed concern that the commissioners could not seek Cuomo’s “disgorgement” of the royalties he earned in 2020 without a full investigation into whether he misused state resources to produce the book, an inquiry that could last months or years.
Ohio – Ohio Supreme Court Rejects Statehouse Maps, Ending Hopes of Full May Primary
MSN – Jessie Balmert and Laura Bischoff (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 3/17/2022
The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the third set of state House and Senate redistricting maps, effectively ending any hope of a May 3 primary with both legislative and statewide races. The decision marks the third time the justices have rejected legislative maps drawn by the Ohio Redistricting Commission. The court ordered the commission to draw a new set of state House and Senate maps by March 28. It also made suggestions for the next round of mapmaking: draft maps in public, convene frequent meetings, and use a different mapmaker.
Ohio – PUCO Orders Long-Awaited Audit into Whether FirstEnergy Used Customer Money for HB6 Lobbying
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 3/9/2022
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) will hire an auditor to examine whether any customer money collected by FirstEnergy was wrongly used to pay for lobbying to pass House Bill 6. FirstEnergy has reported its own investigation did not find any such spending, though a federal audit determined the company the company did improperly use ratepayer money for House Bill 6 lobbying. Once an auditor is chosen, the firm will have until December 16 to issue its report.
Ohio – Russia Business Deals Muddy Ohio GOP US Senate Primary
MSN – Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 3/16/2022
Several Republicans competing for the party’s nomination to run for U.S. Senate in Ohio are facing scrutiny for their ties to Russia as the country intensifies its war against Ukraine. Much of the attention has focused on former Ohio Republican Party Chairperson Jane Timken, whose husband’s family founded a company that does business in Russia. But other candidates in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman, including J.D. Vance and Mike Gibbons, also have links to business deals in Russia that could become vulnerabilities in the primary.
Oregon – One of the Creators of Oregon’s Legal Psychedelic Mushroom Program Leaves Advisory Board
Portland Oregonian – Lizzy Acker | Published: 3/11/2022
Tom Eckert is stepping down as chair of the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board. Eckert, along with late wife, Sheri Eckert, worked for years to bring legal, regulated psilocybin to the state. The couple sponsored the bill that became law in 2020, which created a regulatory framework for therapeutic psychedelic mushrooms. A number of board members and subcommittee members are involved in for-profit psilocybin businesses and projects, including Tom Eckert.
South Dakota – South Dakota Secretary of State, Prosecutor Field Complaints About Ads Targeting Impeachment Committee
Yahoo News – Joe Sneve (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 3/15/2022
State and county officials in South Dakota are fielding complaints about the legality of billboard advertisements targeting lawmakers and calling for the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. The formal complaints allege Dakota Institute for Legislative Solution violated campaign finance law when it began running attack ads accusing five state lawmakers of obstructing an ongoing impeachment investigation into the attorney general, who struck and killed a man with his vehicle in 2020.
Tennessee – Airbnb Legislation Shows How Capitol Hill Culture Affects Tennessee Communities
WTVF – Phil Williams | Published: 3/14/2022
Legislation being pushed by Airbnb, designed to limit Nashville’s ability to regulate short-term rentals, shows how special interests spread campaign contributions among state lawmakers before trying to secure their votes, and how lobbyists use their influence to get lawmakers to sponsor legislation benefiting their clients. Critics say it also reveals how those practices can affect ordinary Tennesseans.
Tennessee – Tennessee Kickback Scandal Leaves GOP Reps Feeling Betrayed
MSN – Jonathan Mattise (Associated Press) | Published: 3/10/2022
Tennessee House Republican lawmakers say they were betrayed by one of their own after they hired a shadowy political consulting firm talked up by a colleague who has since pleaded guilty to fraud in an alleged kickback scheme that also implicates a former House speaker and others. House GOP Caucus Chairperson Jeremy Faison said caucus members had no reason to suspect fraud when they hired Phoenix Solutions to perform campaign and related services for lawmakers. Faison promised “greater scrutiny every time” on hiring vendors, saying they will always be established companies.
Texas – A Texas County Didn’t Count 10,000 Ballots. Now the Parties Are at War Over Who’s to Blame.
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 3/11/2022
During the March primary in Harris County, Texas, voting machines failed to power up, poll workers handed out the wrong-size ballots, and optical scanners rejected hundreds of votes. A weary election worker who had been on the job for at least 30 hours neglected to include about 10,000 of the roughly 360,000 votes in an unofficial tally. What Republicans and Democrats do not agree on is what went wrong. Republicans are demanding the state take over the Democratic-controlled elections office. Democrats say the problem is a new law enacted that made it harder to vote by mail and criminalized election mistakes.
Vermont – Ethics Bill Gets Green Light from Key Committee
VTDigger.org – Lola Duffort | Published: 3/9/2022
A bill creating a state ethics code binding all three branches in Vermont is moving forward after all. Despite earlier concerns from watchdogs that lawmakers would revise the legislation, the Senate Government Operations Committee voted to endorse its latest draft of and send it to the floor. Vermont is one of only five states without an ethics code. It created its first-ever ethics commission in 2017 after years of pressure from good-government advocates and the press.
Virginia – General Assembly OKs Bill Creating Candidate Finance Audits
Virginian-Pilot – Sarah Rankin (Associated Press) | Published: 3/10/2022
The Virginia General Assembly passed a campaign finance reform bill that adds a new layer of oversight to spending by candidates, but only after an amendment was added so it would not take effect until their next scheduled election cycle is over. The bill would both tighten record retention requirements and implement reviews of campaign committee financial records by the Department of Elections. Currently, candidates disclose their spending with varying degrees of specificity under what is effectively an honor system, with no state-sponsored review.
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